Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Greengrocer's Apostrophe

I hate it with a flaming passion. Just wanted to tell y'all that.

Which brings me to a brief rant I have about grading undergrads' essays. I'll leave off the diatribe about having to grade so many of them so often (though some of you have heard this in person or on email several times already), and concentrate on some of the errors that all but a few students commit from time to time:

1. Fucking Greengrocer's Apostrophe and its apprentice, its/it's. Hate, hate, hate, hate. Apostrophes are for marking possession, not plural! No more sentences like this (made up) one: "The successful samba's in carnival...." MAKE IT STOP.

2. Gratuitous punctuation. Kids, you don't look smart or cool if you throw in semicolons randomly, you look like a typist with a spastic pinky finger.

3. Misused big words. Ditto.

4. "This is due to the fact that...." Shoot me now.

I could go on, but I actually have to go deal with a couple of kids' papers (which, fortunately, aren't the worst of the batch)--but *why* don't college students have more writing skills? Ok, don't answer that....

Monday, December 3, 2007

Getting Up is Hard To Do.

Unnnnngh. Just another manic monday. I do wish it was [sic] Sunday.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Forward in All Directions

Mere weeks shy of my 34th birthday, I'm pleased to report that my palate has evolved and I now like capers. Jenny & Rob may now rejoice--and anyone else among ye who feels strongly about the things.

Also, I've just discovered that The Slow Cook links to me! Woo hoo! Even despite my fairly frequent musings on non-culinary aspects of life.

And speaking of which, back I get to work on my dissertation proposal, draft 37 zillion....

Bread Pudding

At Lauren's request, here's how I made the bread pudding. This is adapted from the recipe for "New Orleans Bread Pudding" in Joy of Cooking.

1. Grease a baking dish. The recipe said 13" x 9", but I used the differently configured roasting pan we had free, which is slightly smaller and deeper, since the 13" x 9" was otherwise occupied with sweet potatoes. And since when did I ever really follow a recipe anyway!

2. Cut as much Italian or French bread as will fit in the pan into 1/2" thick slices.

3. Whisk until frothy: 3 large eggs, 4 cups milk, 1 cup sugar (Joy says 2 cups--I thought 1 was plenty!), 2 tablespoons vanilla, one teaspoon cinnamon.

4. Arrange the bread so it's almost upright in the pan. Instead of putting raisins between the slices of bread (NO WAY!!!), I sliced a couple of cooking apples and put them between the slices. It worked out very well.

5. Pour the custard mixture over the bread and let it sit for an hour, occasionally squishing the bread down so the custard can infiltrate the tops of the bread slices as well as the bottoms (I found a potato masher perfect for this job).

6. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for an hour or so, until the top is puffed and lightly browned.

The recipe says to serve it with a whiskey sauce, which would have been lovely, but I had made caramel sauce for it, and we had vanilla ice cream as well. The only thing missing in our household (other than, at that point, stomach room for more food!) was a microwave to heat up the leftovers!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Lots of various little things to report, but for now, I'll leave it at a brief list of what I've been up to this last week or so:

1. A visit to Emily Dickinson's house in Amherst, MA.

2. Several very nice pints at the Northampton Brewery.

3. A hectic re-entry into The City, which involved me, unfed, having to race from train to home to school to show the undergrads a video about bossa nova.

4. Shopping for our very low-key Thanksgiving, which involved a crazy trip to Whole Foods, during which I witnessed water pouring from the ceiling, a fire alarm, and people shouting at each other near the fish. I left without buying anything and had a much more civilized experience at Citarella (where I bought several lovely-looking rainbow trout for tomorrow, iconoclast that I am).

5. Witnessing Jenny make some lovely carrot soup, and giving myself a nasty blister making caramel sauce. Take it from me: when Joy of Cooking says "stand back," stand back!

Perhaps tomorrow I'll have something to report on two firsts: my first time cooking stuffed fish, and my first time making bread pudding (for which the caramel sauce is intended).

Friday, November 9, 2007

My Daemon!

Thanks to Lauren for pointing this site out. You guys can take a mini-questionnaire here to see if you agree with my daemon assignment (apologies to anyone who hasn't read the Philip Pullman books--and if you haven't, you SHOULD!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Question of the Day

Why did writing biography get so popular in the 1980s?

Any ideas, y'all?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Whoa There, Nelly!

A rotten head cold has me down and dopey, so I decided to transform Wednesday night's left over bean burrito concoction into chili. And drastically underestimated the power of those little canned chipotle peppers in ancho sauce. But damn, if this stuff isn't good even so. My sinuses are certainly clearer than they were, even if the inside of my mouth feels destroyed!

Last night, Jenny made a gorgeous vegetable soup out of potato, sweet potato, carrot, and onion. That was perfect for my be-coldened state, too, as was spending this afternoon in bed. Unfortunately, the stack of undergrads' midterms remains mostly ungraded because of my extended nap, not to mention the new charms of Facebook....

Yep, the semester has hit its stride.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Addendum #2, from Jenny's Comment

Jenny's additions can't just stay buried in the comments, so here they are:

Five things I must add, darling:

1) The NYU party being broken up, cuz we're all a buncha derelicts;

2) Allen's belt buckle that opened all our beers (please, Santa, can I have one for Christmas??);

3) Me getting in a fight with the hotel bartender;

4) Cleen's nickname for the weekend: Dirty Schrey;

5) Many awesome intomollectual conversations in our hotel room, over pints stolen from the hotel bar.

Good times.

We also had fun brushing our teeth:

...and saw this BIZARRO poster advertising the "Chocolate Nutcracker" in Columbus in November:

Monday, October 29, 2007


When I was writing that last post and made all those shout-outs, I momentarily forgot Bill's and Scott's papers, both of which were top-notch. I didn't manage to see Dan's or MBQ's, but I hear both were good. And I think that covers all my fellow students.

Back to Civilization

As y'all probably guessed, we did eventually make it to Columbus--our flight Thursday morning went without delays, though the aircraft we were on felt (and looked) fairly decrepit--as J said, like riding a big Chevy Nova through the sky. We arrived to hear how good the morning papers had been, and, as Nicol describes on her blog, that the hotel had given away our room with two double beds, so we had a king and a foldout for four of us. Oh, well--better roommates no one could wish for, and we had several fun room-picnics. In fact, J & I didn't eat any dinners inside a restaurant!

So--as for food (in case anyone gets stuck in downtown Columbus and needs to know): we actually did pretty well. Indian the first night from Indian Oven, which was a little overpriced but fresh and good, with lots of vegetarian options. The only problematic dish was Cleek's rice pudding. Then, Friday night, some acceptable but not exciting pizza from a place in the dead mall attached to the hotel. Saturday night Jenny & I had been planning to have a nice quiet dinner in an Italian restaurant called Due Amici, but inertia set in and we didn't get there in time, so we got takeaway sandwiches from Tip Top, a bar and restaurant with a delightful selection of vegetarian food. We returned there for lunch yesterday before our flight, and I got some spectacular corn chowder: nice and creamy, with all the usual ingredients, plus a kick of chipotle peppers. I almost got a second bowl. Their sweet potato fries were also very well-done: the oil was fresh, and clearly at the right temperature. I wish I'd known about Tip Top sooner--as well as Cafe Brioso, where several of us had sandwiches for lunch on Saturday.

So this SEM (Society for Ethnomusicology) can't compete with last year's in Honolulu for creature comforts, or even with Atlanta for all our trips to the Flying Biscuit, but I believe the meals I had in Columbus were more consistently edible and cheap than in previous years. Who knew?

From all this, you'd think I didn't do anything in Columbus but eat. Of course that's not true--I ran my mouth a great deal, and consumed a fair amount of beer. Saw some good papers--here's a shout-out to Jenny (doin' the good work and speaking out from American silence), Nicol (speaking out from Afrikaaner silence and setting some records straight), Allen (rockin' the new organology), Sean (CUNY piano sleuth extraordinaire), Ben (keeping it real in the 'hood), and Brett (never listening alone). I hope I'm not forgetting anyone!

SEM was (and always) is a great chance to make new friends and to deepen existing friendships. Particularly exciting was the chance to get to know some of the UVA people--it turns out we share more than several migrant faculty--and some of the Columbia crowd, some of whom are very cool. And it was great fun to hang out with several awesome prospective students--Cleek, of course (whose nametag initially read "CLEEN"!), Ben K., and Jeremiah.

And on top of all this, the Macy's in the dead mall was having a closing sale, and I got a new set of 300-count sheets for $15, a new dress, and a sweater.

So all in all, a successful weekend--but now I'm exhausted and have piles of work to do. Alas.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Er, "Off to Columbus" Indeed!

Delta sucks. Somehow, the weather seemed to selectively affect both flights we tried to get on--but very few of the others leaving JFK & LaGuardia, and few of the planes arriving in Columbus. Weather, my ass. Not to mention that we wound up having to go to LaGuardia for the failed second flight. So here I sit, in our living room in Brooklyn, and we'll miss a couple of great paper sessions tomorrow morning--that is, assuming Delta gets us to Columbus at all!

The good part of this wasted day at the airport is that there were six of us from the music department all in the same boat...or rather, not in a plane at all! So we had fun hanging out and finding strength (and bitchiness) in numbers. So tomorrow we get to do it all over again. The car service is supposed to pick J & me up at 5:45am, then stop at Allen's for himself, Nicol, and Brett (who had arrived from South Africa this morning!), and then finally for Jessica. If we're cranky when we arrive at the conference, you all, at least, will know why!

Random Bits and Pieces

Life has been a little hectic lately, with one trip down to DC & Virginia for a friend's wedding last weekend, and leaving for Columbus, Ohio this afternoon for the Society for Ethnomusicology conference this weekend. Nevertheless, I must blog about a few events, however briefly:

1. I got my hair cut yesterday. By my reckoning, this is my first professional haircut in about ten years. For those of you who have seen Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, my hair is pretty close to Jennifer Jason Leigh's hair in the film. A simple bob, but done with more layering than I've ever had.

2. Speaking of films, it's been a great few days for watching good movies. First, we watched Inside Man, which we both loved. Even though Jodie Foster didn't appear on screen enough for my taste, the concept of her character--a woman who nearly controls a city behind the scenes--is brilliant. Then The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) came on tv. Great stuff altogether.

3. I made a great cd haul this weekend in Charlottesville. I haven't even listened to everything yet, but standouts so far are Sepultura's Arise (which I got used for $6) and the reissue of Pylon's Gyrate. The In Tenebris album is growing on me as well, despite what I hear as some mixing issues (the voice is way too disconnected from the rest of the band in the mix). But that's a fairly small complaint, and I get warm fuzzies thinking that Christina, the singer, has done several of Jenny's and my piercings (she's an excellent piercer). Shame the band broke up, though.

4. Last night, we got takeaway from Joy, our old favorite Indian restaurant in Prospect Heights. When we went in to pick it up, one of the employees was rather over the top, saying that of course they deliver to our end of the neighborhood (as of a few months ago, they didn't), asking us to take menus to give to our friends, etc. Then, as we were waiting for a car service to get home, he brought us mango lassis to drink while we waited. All this was fine and good, and definitely inspired good feeling...BUT when we got home, the food was a mere shadow of its usual self. So we're hoping they were just having a bad night, and not that they've changed cooks or management, and that the food returns to its usual high standard. The employee did have an air of desperation about him, though, and when we arrived they had exactly three eat-in customers--not surprising, since the restaurant itself is depressing and badly in need of renovation.

Now--off to Columbus!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hack, Hack

Luckily this post is all about me and not about the kitty, since "hack hack cough cough" was Garfield's signature hairball noise, if memory serves. And actually, I'm not coughing, though I've finally gotten the cold that has been going around. Just as long as I can make it to a few appointments tomorrow and Wednesday, and am in form for my trip down South at the weekend, I don't mind some congestion.

Anyway, all the gratuitous info about my cold is only to introduce what I've been *doing* in my current dragged-out, brain-dead state: revisiting Hack (Nethack), a favorite game from my teenage years that I rediscovered online a couple of years ago. And by now, there's a Wiki that goes along with it. I'm sure some of you have known about this game for years, and also whiled away countless hours as a 15-year-old at it, in that year before the driver's license changed everything (in my case, it made sneaking out of the house with friends for 2am trips to Dunkin' Donuts de rigeur).

Lately, J and I have also been revisiting another fun thing from my past: repeated watchings of Broadcast News. She's got a knack for remembering William Hurt's character's lines, which is nice, since I'm best at Holly Hunter's, with Albert Brooks' a fairly close second. But--as Ann will be happy to hear--we have not gotten up to any related antics, like putting Barbie dolls in Mason jars and labeling them "Paul canned me"! Now we're wondering if there's a Facebook group for BN fans--but I'm too busy procrastinating in other ways to join it, even though several folks have 'invited' me to.

You would think from all this that I'm not doing any schoolwork at all at all--but in fact, I have been working on a new draft of my dissertation proposal, and cold willing, have a meeting about that tomorrow. I've also been reading Hayden White's Metahistory, though I doubt I'll bother with the whole thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

The headline: "Lessing Not Impressed by Nobel Prize" (AP, 11 Oct 2007).

It doesn't seem to happen very often, but it's delightful to see a famous person react to an event in public in a way that exposes the scaffolding of the whole system--in this case, the accepted scenario of "Author writes all her life, is successful, makes bold statements, and eventually wins Nobel Prize--at which time, she accepts gracefully and says all the right things."

Lessing wasn't having any of that:
"I'm sure you'd like some uplifting remarks," she added with a smile.

Lessing, who turns 88 this month, is the oldest winner of the literature prize. Although she is widely celebrated for "The Golden Notebook" and other works, she has received little attention in recent years and has been criticized as strident and eccentric.

Asked repeatedly if she was excited about the award, she held court from her doorstep and noted she had been in the running for the Nobel for decades.

"I can't say I'm overwhelmed with surprise," Lessing said. "I'm 88 years old and they can't give the Nobel to someone who's dead, so I think they were probably thinking they'd probably better give it to me now before I've popped off."

Surrounded by members of the international media in her flower-packed garden, Lessing was dismissive of the Nobel — calling the award process graceless and saying the prize "doesn't mean anything artistically."

You go, girl.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tweaking the Roasted Red Pepper Soup Recipe

Maybe I should subtitle this blog "All About Roasted Red Pepper Soup"--it's definitely a popular topic here in blogspace, and a very popular dish here in physical space.

Anyway, last night's was the best yet. What I changed:

1. Lower potato-to-pepper ratio.
2. Red pepper flakes at the beginning.
3. I included one roasted tomato, with peel and seeds removed (obviously).
4. I fecked some marjoram--my new favorite herb--into it early on.

It kicked ass.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Apologies to Platinus

Ever since we went to the Renaissance Italian cooking class in May, I've wanted to go back and try some of the recipes we did there. So Saturday night, despite unseasonably hot and sticky heat, I decided to try the chard torta. I'm pretty sure Chef Kaufman or Platinus (the source for the recipe) would have recognized this quiche as "inspired by" the original, but the original it certainly was not!

First, I decided not to make a crust. Rather than do the lazy and cheap thing of using a bought pie crust, I lined my new glass pie pan with sliced potatoes. Next, I used soy mozzarella so Jenny could eat it (the recipe calls for ricotta and fresh mozzarella). I don't need to be told how much better that would have been, but given the choice I made it so J could enjoy it as well. Third, since I was leaving out the ricotta, I used 3 eggs instead of 2, and a cup of milk rather than 3/4 cup. Finally, I added some garlic to give it a little bite and to distract a little from the soy mozzarella.

Other ingredients: a bunch of chard, a small handful of marjoram, and two handfuls of Italian parsley, plus salt and pepper to taste. I sauteed the chard and garlic, added the herbs at the end, and folded that into the egg and milk mixture. I poured that over the potato "crust," adding slices of the soy cheese in the middle.

I thought it delicious and light, and the marjoram was wonderful. I'd never cooked with it, but I think this is only the beginning. The potatoes could have been a bit crispier, and in the future I think I'll put the cheese on top instead of inside, which would also mean I could put real cheese on half and soy cheese on the other half!

We followed the quiche with apple crumble, and were joined by our friend Nicol and her new girlfriend Stephanie, who brought ice cream to go on top. The crumble was pretty much as I'd blogged about before, except that I added a handful of blueberries to it just before putting the crumbles on top. I didn't have quite enough brown sugar and only had quick oats on hand, so the texture was a little smoother than it usually is, but it was still a hit.

In other news, the Yankees just lost to the Indians. There goes Torre and A-Rod, I guess. J and I have to go to Columbus, Ohio for a conference in a few weeks, so we've decided to take Yankees gear, just to represent.

In other, other news, I had yet another migraine today, which meant that a lot of books went unread. Alas. But after all, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Pesky Squirrels, Part 2

Arrrrrgh! The cayenne pepper didn't work at all. Next try: some sort of screen, or maybe bars (perhaps from old grills?). The plants do need to achieve their height, after all.

What really rankles is that the squirrels don't even seem to be using anything from the pots or plants, nor do they seem to be using the pots as toilets (thank goodness). They just seem to want to get in there and scrabble up the earth out of pure devilment!

I bought some mint today--hoping to get that going before I bring it inside. Fingers crossed that the squirrels don't 'molester' that too!

A Need for Bookends--The Non-Metaphorical Kind

Now we know what Art Garfunkel was buying at Scarborough Fair--never mind the parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme: he was buying the old classics. The funny thing is that he and I were reading some of the same books at the same time--I guess he was a late bloomer.

Thanks to "Little Friend" for sending along these links--Garfunkel's favorite books, and his library.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pesky Squirrels

I'm attempting to make something of the last little bit of Indian summer weather by getting some thyme growing outside (which I plan to move inside under a grow light), as well as nursing Jenny's little pepper plants along in hopes they'll bear (one finally has a tiny pepper! woo hoo!--though I don't think it'll amount to much before it's too cool for it), and letting the marigolds go to seed so that maybe I can get them to grow from seed next year. But the squirrels around here--"skrats"--won't stop digging in the pots! Does anyone have any good solutions?

Yesterday I sprinkled a little cayenne pepper on the soil in the thyme pot, since that seems to be the most popular with the "rats in cuter outfits"--we'll see if that does anything. They didn't really bother the basil that much--I wonder if they avoid certain smells....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sexy Abe Lincoln!

One-stop Halloween shopping: watch the video here.

...and this old favorite, the Starbucks Guy. "Whaddathey think they're selling over there? Fuckin' liquid gold?"

Unlikely Bedfellows

Did y'all see this?

Secessionists meeting in Tennessee

By BILL POOVEY, Associated Press WriterWed Oct 3, 3:15 AM ET

In an unlikely marriage of desire to secede from the United States, two advocacy groups from opposite political traditions — New England and the South — are sitting down to talk.

Tired of foreign wars and what they consider right-wing courts, the Middlebury Institute wants liberal states like Vermont to be able to secede peacefully.

That sounds just fine to the League of the South, a conservative group that refuses to give up on Southern independence.

"We believe that an independent South, or Hawaii, Alaska, or Vermont would be better able to serve the interest of everybody, regardless of race or ethnicity," said Michael Hill of Killen, Ala., president of the League of the South.

Separated by hundreds of miles and divergent political philosophies, the Middlebury Institute and the League of the South are hosting a two-day Secessionist Convention starting Wednesday in Chattanooga.

They expect to attract supporters from California, Alaska and Hawaii, inviting anyone who wants to dissolve the Union so states can save themselves from an overbearing federal government.

If allowed to go their own way, New Englanders "probably would allow abortion and have gun control," Hill said, while Southerners "would probably crack down on illegal immigration harder than it is being now."

The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly prohibit secession, but few people think it is politically viable.

Vermont, one of the nation's most liberal states, has become a hotbed for liberal secessionists, a fringe movement that gained new traction because of the Iraq war, rising oil prices and the formation of several pro-secession groups.

Thomas Naylor, the founder of one of those groups, the Second Vermont Republic, said the friendly relationship with the League of the South doesn't mean everyone shares all the same beliefs.

But Naylor, a retired Duke University professor, said the League of the South shares his group's opposition to the federal government and the need to pursue secession.

"It doesn't matter if our next president is Condoleeza (Rice) or Hillary (Clinton), it is going to be grim," said Naylor, adding that there are secessionist movements in more than 25 states, including Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Texas.

The Middlebury Institute, based in Cold Spring, N.Y., was started in 2005. Its followers, disillusioned by the Iraq war and federal imperialism, share the idea of states becoming independent republics. They contend their movement is growing.

The first North American Separatist Convention was held last fall in Vermont, which, unlike most Southern states, supports civil unions. Voters there elected a socialist to the U.S. Senate.

Middlebury director Kirpatrick Sale said Hill offered to sponsor the second secessionist convention, but the co-sponsor arrangement was intended to show that "the folks up north regard you as legitimate colleagues."

"It bothers me that people have wrongly declared them to be racists," Sale said.

The League of the South says it is not racist, but proudly displays a Confederate Battle Flag on its banner.

Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which monitors hate groups, said the League of the South "has been on our list close to a decade."

"What is remarkable and really astounding about this situation is we see people and institutions who are supposedly on the progressive left rubbing shoulders with bona fide white supremacists," Potok said.

Sale said the League of the South "has not done or said anything racist in its 14 years of existence," and that the Southern Poverty Law Center is not credible.

"They call everybody racists," Sale said. "There are, no doubt, racists in the League of the South, and there are, no doubt, racists everywhere."

Harry Watson, director of the Center For the Study of the American South and a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said it was a surprise to see The Middlebury Institute conferring with the League of the South, "an organization that's associated with a cause that many of us associate with the preservation of slavery."

He said the unlikely partnering "represents the far left and far right of American politics coming together."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More Than the Sum of Its Parts: Egg Thing #30 Zillion

I just made the most fabulous lunch, and y'all don't get to see a picture of it because I devoured it before I could look for the camera.

This wasn't rocket science, nor was it all that different from other Egg Things I've made in the past, but it was delicious, so I'm going to tell y'all about it:

First, I sauteed a handful of button mushrooms, a couple of maverick shitakes I had lying around, and half a medium onion. Seasoned that with dried thyme and oregano and a little salt, and then poured 2 beaten eggs over it in my little frying pan that's the perfect size for a 2-egg omelet. Almost immediately I put enough chopped Italian parsley on it so that I couldn't see much egg underneath, and then a generous handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Stuck a lid on that sucker so the top would get done and melt the cheese (something I rarely do, and now I'm not sure why not!), and garnished it with the remainder of an orange heirloom tomato from the Bartell-Pritchard Square farmers' market (the Wednesday one, so it was nearly a week more ripe than when I bought it, which meant it was in that state of sweetness before disintegration).

The only problems with it were that (a) I wish I'd had more tomato; and (b) I wish I'd had more of the dish in toto.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

G-- D--- P---y P--n.

I was all set to feel honored, or if not honored, then just damned cool: I just noticed I had a couple of site visits from Iceland, which is just a few steps removed in my mind from other top-of-cool places like Greenland and Antarctica ("Top-of-cold," I can hear some of you saying).

But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ! They were Googling that unfortunate piano-playing kid with the suggestive name I mentioned months back. I swear, my blog would have half the traffic it does if I hadn't picked up on the tale of Poor Dear P---y P--n (henceforward PDPP, since "The One Who Shall Who Shall Not Be Named" is already taken).

Oh, well. Guess I'll just have to become a more interesting blogger. Or give up and become the repository for information about PDPP. She does live in New Jersey, after all.

The Book I'm Not Reading: various excerpts of Marx's work.

Bold Gull

...this from BBC News Scotland--thanks to Qwags for pointing it out. (Yes, it's a slow news weekend--I have been reading all weekend, and have hardly left the house...and am still exhausted. Ah, grad student life. Definitely not funburn.)

Seagull becomes crisp shoplifter

A seagull has turned shoplifter by wandering into a shop and helping itself to crisps.

The bird walks into the RS McColl newsagents in Aberdeen when the door is open and makes off with cheese Doritos.

The seagull, nicknamed Sam, has now become so popular that locals have started paying for his crisps.

Shop assistant Sriaram Nagarajan said: "Everyone is amazed by the seagull. For some reason he only takes that one particular kind of crisps."

The bird first swooped in Aberdeen's Castlegate earlier this month and made off with the 55p crisps, and is now a regular.

Once outside, the crisps are ripped open and the seagull is joined by other birds.

'Fine art'

Mr Nagarajan said: "He's got it down to a fine art. He waits until there are no customers around and I'm standing behind the till, then he raids the place.

"At first I didn't believe a seagull was capable of stealing crisps. But I saw it with my own eyes and I was surprised. He's very good at it.

"He's becoming a bit of a celebrity. Seagulls are usually not that popular but Sam is a star because he's so funny."

A spokesman for RSPB Scotland said: "I've never heard of anything like this before.

"Perhaps it tried some crisps in a shiny packet in the street, and was just opportunistic one day at the shop when it saw what was inside.

"As everyone knows, gulls can be very quick and fearless, and clearly this one is no exception."

He added: "We'd discourage people from feeding gulls though, as gulls in towns generate lots of complaints every year, and the availability of food is the only reason they live in urban settings."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

T: "What am I going to say about our soup?"
J: "It was orange. It was orange, and it was awesome."

Y'all would think that we haven't been eating, or we haven't been cooking, for the amount I've been blogging about it lately. Not so--but by the time we've cooked and eaten, there's no time to talk about it--it's been back to work, or alternately, time for a quick bout of the train game. But I've been meaning to write about roasted red pepper soup for a while, so tonight is the night.

The first time I made it I looked at several recipes online, and decided not to follow any of them. Here's what I did tonight:

3 red peppers, roasted under the broiler & skins removed (obviously)
2 medium-sized potatoes
3 skinny carrots
1 largeish onion
2 cups vegetable stock (from bouillon, alas)
about 1 cup water
a little salt
a little black pepper

I sauteed the onions in a combo of olive oil and butter, added the carrots, peppers, and potatoes briefly, and then the stock & water, and let it simmer for--hmmm, maybe half an hour or 45 minutes? Then I pressed the whooshy thing into service and pureed the whole thing. Jenny chopped some fresh cilantro for garnish.

It wasn't the best roasted red pepper I've made--I think the last time was better. Here's what I'd have changed this time:

1. During the onion phase, I meant to put a few hot red pepper flakes in, but I was a little tipsy, thanks to a delicious Stone IPA on a mostly empty stomach (thanks to Rob for turning us on to that!).

2. Ditto some dried oregano--just a pinch. I think a tiny bit of dried basil would have been nice, too.

3. An extra red pepper would have boosted the flavor--or, alternately, fresh local peppers would have been tastier (I used Fresh Direct peppers that weren't as ripe as the ones I'd been getting at the Grand Army Plaza farmers' market).

Still, it was delicious, even if it wasn't life-changing the way our dinner Monday night was. After nearly a year, we returned to our favorite Indian restaurant in Brooklyn: Joy. And it was indeed joyful. We had our usual Joy haul: chicken tikka masala, chana masala, a side order of aloo gobi, vegetarian samosas, poppadums, garlic naan, and rice. But seriously: this isn't some little Brooklyn restaurant where we eat when we don't feel like going into Manhattan. If this says anything, I even prefer it to Madhur Jaffrey's restaurant Dawat, although the tandoori oven there is all it's cracked up to be. Now, we haven't explored Jackson Heights, so I can't compare Joy with the best of Queens, but J & I both were doing the happy food dance the other night.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And Think of All the Vitamins

This is shameless, but I'm going to deny y'all a substantial post--and instead, implore everyone to trot over to Rob's blog Vaca Estupenda, where his most recent post includes a clip of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. Check it out!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

And I thought *my* baking was strange sometimes....

I usually avoid baking. I find it much less satisfying to have to measure ingredients than to feck a bunch of random items into a pot--which is perhaps why I love cooking soup so much. Nonetheless, I'm a pretty big fan of goods others have baked, as John can attest! Not these, though, over at the Real Thai blog....

(photo shamelessly lifted from Austin Bush's blog, Real Thai. There's more where this one came from!

The Book I'm Not (Re)Reading: Joan Scott's Feminism and History

Good Job, Tom Cruise

(Top Gun was on tv this morning...I couldn't help but think of this video....)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thug Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Alas! They killed U-Turn, who delivered one of the best line I've heard in a while, quoted above.

I suspect most of you, my dedicated readers, don't watch "Weeds," but for those of you who are keeping up with this season, you'll understand, and might enjoy this post on TV Squad. For the rest of you, I promise something with wider appeal soon--or at least, with different appeal.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I Thought My Life Was Complete...

...and then I saw this:

Kitty Strategy

I think someone else is getting hooked on the train game....

(n.b. We weren't actually watching football--this was a commercial during, I believe, an episode of Survivorman!)

This was right before Maddie swatted my piece off the board, I believe.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Paltry Excuses

I'd like to say that the school year has been busy so far, kicking my ass so hard I haven't got time to blog, but that wouldn't be entirely true. More accurate would be to say that yes, school has started, and I have had a surprising number of places to be this week--but more to the point, a few other things have come in the way of blogging:

1. Television. Sad but true. Our L Word marathon somehow whetted J's and my tastes for reruns of Survivorman on The Science Channel, despite the recurrent threat of poisonous spiders and snakes on screen.

2. The Train Game arrived! J is hooked,and I'm recapturing the magic. Rotors to Berlin, anyone? We welcome third or fourth players--let us know.

3. The Cloffice. I'm continuing to set up the kitchen closet as my office, and am on the final (long-put-off) task: filing. Today? Maybe....

4. Playing on the Internet. I just linked to a new blog: a friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) is now blogging about her experiences learning how to cook Asian food. Check it out here.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Life in Glencolumcille, Part 1

During my time in Gleann, I kept wishing for enough internet access to blog, but alas--the only public computer in the village is dial-up, extremely expensive, and most critical, never available. So I've been saving up thoughts, and I've had several requests to blog about spending most of the summer in rural Donegal, so--here goes!

Gleann Cholm Cille, or Glencolumcille, is a village of roughly 700, according to some census figure or other. I figure this number includes people living in the general area, because there's no way in hell there are as many as 700 in the village--so perhaps this count refers to the parish? Anyway, the village has several fine establishments, and I'll do my best to remember each of them. There aren't many.

1. Pubs: Biddy's, Roarty's (where I mostly hung out), and the Glen Head (where the locals retreat when all the "Gabh Mo Leisceals" arrive for the summer (this, apparently, is what they call us language students--it means "I'm sorry" and supposedly refers to overeager non-local Irish speakers making their way through crowded pubs).

2. Byrne's Food Store, which is about the size of a small convenience store here.

3. The post office and the small shop next to it, which carries only postcards, chocolate, Tayto, and things of that nature.

4. The weird shop, which seems to try to cater to tourists? I never went in, which is surprising, since the jumble of wares in the window was puzzling in its variety--fishing rods, tupperware, plush sheep toys, etc.

5. Some sort of shop that seemed to sell paint, although I never saw it open.

6. Two churches: Catholic and the Church of Ireland

7. The chipper van (usually open only on weekend nights)

Then, away from the village toward the strand but still within walking distance:

1. The laundrette--I believe the proprietor's name is Mary, and she seems to be--like many of the locals--ambivalent toward the students, who really do overrun the village in the summer. I expect she sees the knickers of nearly every person who comes through town, so if I were her, I suppose I would be wary of strangers, too.

2. An Stasiún Tine--the fire station. It's the size of a one-car garage.

3. The John Molloy Woolen Shop, which had for-sale signs up but did open sometime in July for a few weeks. I imagine they have a range of tourist crap, but never went in.

4. Oideas Gael (the school), and its rather basic restaurant, An Cistin ("the kitchen"). Oh, yes, and the bookstore inside, which not surprisingly sells mostly books in Irish, including translations of Harry Potter and other such books!

5. The Folk Village & its shop (more tourist stuff for sale here).

I think that's it for human-made public establishments. And then, of course, is the strand--which leaves me a great opportunity to post a gratuitous picture or two. Bear in mind that the weather seen here is not representative of the weather I, er, enjoyed during most of the summer.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

All Sorted

I'm in Gryffindor. I was a little surprised--I was suspecting Ravenclaw, but oh, well!

Get sorted by the Hogwarts Sorting Hat here.

Now I really am going to do my taxes, finally.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Train Game!

I just ordered a copy of

with an Amazon gift certificate.

Rob and Mike know what this game means to me, since we played a few times back when I was in DC, but I have more associations of it from college days, when a few of us sat around drinking endless cups of tea and playing it. Strangely addictive, it's like Monopoly, but with a point. And it involves crayons.

Brilliant altogether.

Freakin' Out the Kitty Cat

J & I just decided we needed a good laugh, so watched the Kitty Cat Dance for what must have been the hundredth time--and in the spirit of killing time, we clicked on a few more links, ranging from the hilarious to the truly bizarro. Maddie didn't enjoy these nearly as much as we did, though.

Listen to Tiresias (at the end)...

Gizmo Flushes...

Homage to Gizmo...

and--Creepy. Too Creepy, Man, Too Creepy.

I know some of you out there are waiting for me to write more about Ireland--somehow, I haven't had the energy for much of that (though plenty of energy for other things). But never fear--one of these days....

Friday, August 24, 2007

Might as Well Wear Hanes...

...in Atlanta, because it'll be against the law to show off your underwear if current legislation passes. Check out this article about changes to Atlanta's decency laws.

Here's what the sponsoring city councilman has to say about the idea of racial profiling:

"The purpose of the paper is to generate some conversation to see if we can find a solution," Martin said. "It will be like all the discussions we've had around the value of the hip-hop culture. We know there are First Amendment issues ... and some will say I'm just trying to put young black men in jail, but it's going to be fines."


(Sorry, Rob--once again, I think I've beat you on the "What the Fuck Friday" feature ;-)

Friday, August 17, 2007

An bhfuil sibh réidh? (Are ye ready?)

While we were in Paris, Jenny bought cds of MC Solaar and Shy'm. I've been enjoying both since I got back--they're especially suitable for Home Improvement Projects. I'm creating an office out of our kitchen closet--quite an adventure in managing old plaster and horrid shelves from some decade past, but greatly improved by these cds and beer.

First, MC Solaar. This isn't a video, but so far, it's one of my favorite songs on the album.

...and Shy'm. Delightfully cheesy, and she will always remind me of one particular summer evening at our friend Chris's apartment in Belleville, getting ready to go out, with him giving running commentary from the bathroom. This wasn't the song I'd have chosen (I was looking for "Sur les Dancefloors"), but oh, well!

There's just something so cool about Paris. Just being there made me feel--as Engrish.com would put it--Top of Cool. Imagine these two songs as part of the soundtrack to an evening which began with dinner outside at a fabulous pizza restaurant and ended with meeting up with a very cool crowd of Parisians and expats at a slightly dive-y lesbian bar in the Marais, where my Perrier had a bright green glo-stick in it! Definitely Top of Cool.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cad é Tharla? (What Happened?)

Yes, folks, I'm back from Ireland!

Describing the whole thing of a piece is too much for me in my still-jetlagged state, and besides, who wants a laundry list of What I Did During My Summer in Ireland (for vacation it was not)? Ok, I know some of you want the big story all at once, but what you'll get (eventually) are a series of vignettes.

For now, though, two short lists.

Momentous Things That Happened

1. I found out that I got the Mainzer Fellowship to Cambridge next winter! I'll be there for two months as part of their gender studies program, and I'm ecstatic about it! While there, I will be doing research about Julia Clifford and Lucy Farr.

2. Jenny & I spent five days in Paris, catching up with our friend Chris, formerly a student in composition in NYU. He moved to France a few years ago, and we got to hang out with him and his fabulous Parisian and ex-pat friends. We felt tres chic, indeed!

3. My Irish language skills are much improved, thanks to the FLAS grant that allowed me to spend about a month and a half studying at Oideas Gael. Of course I have lots to say about that, but for now, I'll leave it by saying that despite its significant flaws (namely its very pathetic food shop) I'm already making plans to get back to Glencolumcille as soon as possible.

4. I perfected my apple crumble technique, sans measurements of any kind other than by eyeball and handful. Once it cools off enough to want the oven on--which, providentially, will coincide with apple season--I'll have to see whether my newfound skills came with me across the Atlantic, or whether they were a magical gift of the cottage in Glen where I stayed for the month of June.

5. I caught my first 4 fish! Mackerel, off the coast near Teelin. I fried them up and they were beautiful.

6. I heard about the song "Automatic Lover" for the first time ever. Stay tuned....

...and a second list--

Things that Momentously Did Not Happen

1. Fieldwork interviews. This omission felt right and good, though--partly because I was busy learning Irish, thinking about my project--and what's more, have not filed any research plans with the Human Subjects Board at NYU (better safe than sorry).

2. A great deal of fiddling. The first three weeks I was in Glen, the good music was elsewhere, and I didn't have a car. I did make up for lost time later in the summer there (more on this later), but also momentously, I spent a total of about 12 hours at the Willie Clancy week. That, for you non-traddies out there, is a trifling amount, because in past years I've spent nearly all my waking hours for a week there. And during that 12 hours or so, I played maybe an hour's worth. Again, more on the whys and wherefores of this later.

3. Drinking. I probably had a total of 5 pints the whole summer, taken glass by glass. My coffee intake was slightly higher, but still fairly insignificant. My consumption of black tea and Donegal bogwater, however, was unprecedented.

As I recover from jetlag and get back into the swing of posting, I'll describe some of this stuff in more detail and post some pictures. For now, here are two teasers: one photo, and the unspeakably stunning and bizarro video for "Automatic Lover." I thank Paolo (Sophie's boyfriend and now a friend of mine) for tipping me off about this song. Too cool, man, too cool.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Frozen Wine

All this talk about ice cream reminds me that I never posted the recipe for the frozen wine from the Renaissance cooking class. Thanks to Chef Cathy Kaufman and her Italian source Della Porta for this one--it was a huge hit in the class, and Jenny & I hope to make it again as soon as we either (a) have an ice cream maker; or (b) have the patience to freeze it in a pan, stirring occasionally. Everything that follows is quoted from Chef Cathy's recipe:

3 1/2 cups red or white wine
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
3/4 ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground malaguetta pepper (grains of paradise)

1. Place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 1/2 hour. Strain through cheesecloth, reserving the wine.

2. Place the wine in a shallow container and place in the freezer. Stir the mixture periodically with a fork to create a slushy texture, in the nature of a granita. Or place in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions for a sorbet.

The picture below comes from Delia Online, some cookery website that came up with another recipe for wine sorbet on Google. Ours looked pretty much like this, and we used the cheap cooking wine they had on hand--Franzia, I think it was. Box wine, anyway. It didn't matter a damn, although I wonder whether nicer wine would make nicer sorbet. For red, I imagine you could do worse with a more complex wine, and perhaps not much better; for white, I expect you could do worse, too, but also a lot better with something more interestingly fruity. A fun but potentially expensive experiment, to be sure!

Saturday, June 2, 2007


I learned something last night: my dangerously powerful ice cream addiction can, through only a couple of degrees of separation, help BRIMS and other Charlottesville groups. That is, if I eat the Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownie flavor of Ben & Jerry's, from which a portion of the proceeds go to BAMA Works, the charitable arm of the DMB. BRIMS got a BAMA grant a few years ago...hmmm...wonder how much ice cream I'd have to eat to create another BRIMS grant.... (Though to be sure, the ice cream label says that the money goes specifically toward environmental projects, so I don't know if it gets funneled off to a different place in the foundation finances...presumably so, but still.)

The ice cream itself is delightfully palatable. Not my favorite B&J flavor, but the raspberry/chocolate/vanilla combination is definitely a winner. (Before ye ask, I can't quite figure out my favorite flavor--one for every mood, I suppose, and I never met one I didn't like, though some I like less than others.)

Still, I expect more of the proceeds go to the proprietors of the bodega around the corner than to BAMA. I certainly pay a premium for having more junk food within a block than anyone needs--this pint was $4.49. But it sure beats the hell out of the old 'hood, where it wasn't possible to get milk that hadn't spoiled. Just not possible. The only edible/potable things there were beer, Coke, potato chips, and Hershey's chocolate.

I'm such a yuppie.

In other ice cream news, I set out today to buy a Donvier ice cream maker. I think they were much more popular 10 or 15 years ago, but I always liked my grandmother's (and, in fact, was the only person ever to use the thing, I think). Very low-tech, but without having to deal with the rock salt and ice--the important piece of the Donvier is a cannister that you put in the freezer overnight. It's filled with some sort of coolant that freezes the ice-cream-to-be, and has a hand crank. Of course it would never work as well as the fancy yoke we used at the Institute of Culinary Education, but it would suit our purposes well enough. But alas--no dice. If I'm going to make the frozen wine thing before I go to Ireland, it'll have to be in a metal bowl in the freezer.

And in other consumer goods news: buying blank minidiscs these days is quite a feat. I still haven't succeeded, despite checking Best Buy, Circuit City, Virgin Megastore, and even Radio Shack, which I detest. The word on the street (literally) is that I should check with the sketchy places on 14th Street with the pay-to-play Atari and Nintendo games in front. Alas--iRiver and all those new(ish) gadgets aside, this time I really need the external data storage, since I won't be taking my computer to Ireland, and won't be able to download interviews, tunes, etc. until I return in August.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rosy-Fingered Dusk

J & I enjoyed another evening outside today, with her guacamole and beer--a last little celebration before she heads off to LA tomorrow for the ECHO conference at UCLA. Even though we can't take any credit for the tea roses (I think that's what they are), marigolds, or verbena (both of which we merely transplanted), they're lovely. It's too early yet to see the sprouting bachelor's buttons, and the peppers still aren't up--not sure what will happen there, because as feared, the neighborhood cats (or other critters) have been 'molestering' the soil in the pots.

...and here, finally placed in the yard, is the "chocolate" green man I accidentally won at the BRIMS silent auction in March.

Mars Returns to the Planet Earth

So it looks like I'll be able to indulge in the occasional Twix this summer after all: after many complaints, Mars Inc. has changed its corporate mind about the rennet. Read the story here (and thanks to Rob for his comment pointing me toward this article).

Monday, May 28, 2007

There Goes Twix...

...but at least I still have Cadbury products Flake and Crunchie, which--as far as I know--will not contain rennet anytime soon. Rob just sent me this article, which announces Mars' decision to use rennet in their chocolate products in the UK. First of all, ewww!; and second, I'm allergic to the stuff! (I'm assuming US products are not affected.)

Mars starts using animal products
Some of the UK's best-selling chocolate bars, such as Mars and Twix, will no longer be suitable for vegetarians.

Also affecting brands such as Snickers and Maltesers, owner Masterfoods said it had started to use animal product rennet to make its chocolate products.

Masterfoods said the change was due to it switching the sourcing of its ingredients and the admission was a "principled decision" on its part.

The Vegetarian Society said the company's move was "incomprehensible".

Masterfoods said it had started using rennet from 1 May and non-affected products had a "best before date" up to 1 October.

Rennet, a chemical sourced from calves' stomachs, is used in the production of whey.

It will now also be found in Bounty, Minstrels and Milky Way products, and the ice cream versions of all Masterfoods' bars.

"If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable, but a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate," said Paul Goalby, corporate affairs manager for Masterfoods.

The Vegetarian Society said it was "extremely disappointed".

"At a time when more and more consumers are concerned about the provenance of their food, Masterfoods' decision to use non-vegetarian whey is a backward step," it said in a statement.

"Mars products are very popular with young people and many will be shocked to discover that their manufacture now relies on the extraction of rennet from the stomach lining of young calves," it added.

This move really is incomprehensible, since I imagine whatever firming agent they were using before would be easier and cheaper to produce/extract than rennet, which only seems to turn up (these days) in more expensive cheeses here in the US.

In other EWWW--GRODY news, J & I watched Fast Food Nation last night, which on top of a mystery novel about an IRA job (Val MacDiarmid's Hostage to Murder) gave me some very strange nightmares....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Saturday Night Feast

After a delightful afternoon planting things (marigolds, verbena, basil, peppers, and bachelor's buttons) in our back garden and then admiring our work from newly-de-dirted chairs sipping glasses of wine, J and I came back in to cook. Once again, simplicity ruled the day--simplicity with a fair helping of decadence.

Nice salmon, broiled. Fried potatoes. Fiddlehead ferns sauteed with shallots and a little of the white wine. Red pepper "aioli" (just roasted red pepper, garlic, olive oil, and salt--no egg, although I guess I made mine a more proper aioli by adding mayonnaise to it). And to complete the picture, fresh bread from the Italian store up the street. We ate ourselves silly.

Now I'm debating about whether to go make pancakes or not....

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Happy Second Life for Leftovers; Tropicália

Last night, to celebrate my return home J made a batch of her wonderful pesto and a pot of the quick version of her tomato sauce. We were too late to get fresh pasta from the Italian store on 7th Ave, but she also cobbled a bean dish together from spinach, red bell pepper, and cannelini beans--very simple but tasty nonetheless. I ate the beans cold for breakfast, and just now fecked the rest of the leftovers into the pot with chickpeas, more red pepper and spinach, and a little more pasta. Voila, damn good dinner!

In the meantime, I've been listening to that Tropicália album. Great stuff altogether, though not quite what I was expecting. This is a compilation done by Soul Jazz Records of London, and includes tracks from Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes, Jorge Ben, and Tom Zé--and only one duplicate track--predictably, Caetano Veloso's Tropicália. Definitely lots of influence from the US and UK--Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc.--which is exactly what the movement was about. (Read more here.)

In other news, I finally put the azaleas I won in the BRIMS silent auction into the ground. Let's see if they live. The best spot for them also seems to be a place popular with local critters, perhaps the tomcats who occasionally stop by to yowl at Maddie. I figure the plants stand a better chance there than in their pots, anyway. Maybe this weekend J & I will get around to planting the seeds I gave her for her birthday....

That Summer Feeling

I'm newly back from my roadtrip down South, and although I had vowed not to do much shopping (because I flew back I had limited cargo space), y'all know that didn't really stop me from picking up a few items.

Most notable among the cheap jeans, shirts, and cds is Devon Sproule's new album, Keep Your Silver Shined. I've only listened to it once, but it really does invoke a certain feeling of life in and near Charlottesville. For me, it specifically gives me "that summer feeling" of warm days, bare feet, green light filtering in from leafy trees outside, the drone of insects, and nothing to do but play tunes and eat fresh food.

And luckily, it is summer, so I can replicate at least a few of these, although I probably will still remain a little wistful. I imagine Devon's cd will be a good summer soundtrack...but next I'll have to check out the Brazilian Tropicalia cd I bought....

Monday, May 14, 2007

Starting Slowly and Tapering Off

(to quote Zan McLeod's somewhat famous words about some tune or other....)

The school year's officially over, and I'm off for a brief roadtrip. Y'all take care, now, y'hear!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Monteverdi Would Have Drooled

Last night, J & I took her parents to a class at the Institute of Culinary Education for their 30th anniversary--"Dining with Platina, Michaelangelo, and Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Cooking," ably and fascinatingly taught by Cathy Kaufman, the food historian for ICE. (I got the impression she does other things as well, but I'm not sure what.)

The evening began with a brief lecture from Chef Cathy about eating in the Renaissance--humoural medicine, how class distinctions play out in eating habits, the history of the first Italian cookbooks, etc. Some of the class seemed to be nodding off during her talk, but Jenny & I, nerds that we are, were listening attentively.

Next, she passed around some of the more obscure ingredients we'd be using: verjuice and malaguetta pepper, which figured strongly in one of the dishes J & I made--but more on that in a minute.

At this stage, we started to realize that at the table with us were several people with a great sense of humor and adventure, some shell-shocked and shy folks, and a couple of right duds. By the luck of the draw, we ended up at a cooking table with the dud couple, who were extremely snarky. Oh, well--we wound up just ignoring them anyway, which was easy enough, especially since we outnumbered them 2 to 1.

Our table's job was to complete six items: Marzipan Torta, Fava Beans, Roasted Game Hens with Sweet and Sour Orange Sauce, Cuttlefish in Black Sauce, Tomacelli (herbed calves' liver), and Frozen Wine. Jenny & I began on the wine (a granita sort of thing), and her parents set to the game hens, while the Snarks started measuring for the torta. Seeing what was next on the list (the calves' liver), I asked the Snarks (kindly, I thought) if they would mind switching off with me, so that I would do the rest of the torta so as not to be elbow-deep in things I'm allergic to. They agreed, however begrudingly, and so making the pizzelle (?) wafers on which the marzipan sits occupied me for the next while.

I won't go through a whole play-by-play here, but will cut to the meal's highlights. Of course I couldn't eat everything, but of what I ate, the standouts were the Salad of Mixed Lettuces and Herbs, the Bolognese Torte (mainly chard and cheese, with a sweetish crust), fish (not sure what) with Lombard Sauce, and the Frozen Wine. Sweet Rice Fritters were probably lovely when they were hot, but by the time we ate them they were cold and stodgy--ditto the game hens. My torta was likewise adversely affected by the delay in eating--what should have been crispy was densely chewy, although still very tasty with the marzipan itself, and the rose water I put in it. I am inspired to tweak that recipe for home use, for something that will be able to bear a delay in eating.

Of these, the standouts were the salad and the fish, and later I'll post the recipes to these. But now I'm hungry....

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Feckin' Eejit

Here's the New York Times quotation of the day:

"She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child."
--PRESIDENT BUSH , on the reaction of Queen Elizabeth II after he nearly said she had visited in 1776.

I do not know what to say.

Monday, May 7, 2007


This calls for a celebration:

I turned in my paper around 3pm today. It's not the best thing ever, but it's a start toward my dissertation proposal--so, as they say in Irish, ceart go leor! (Right enough.)

Next we're off to meet J's family for her birthday dinner--and then sleep, glorious sleep--something that's been in short supply lately.

Very Hard to Believe

Ok, if my complete and incorrigible nerdiness weren't already apparent--I can't believe that nowhere on the Internet exists that famous photo of Julia Clifford with her Stroh fiddle! Just when I need it for my paper--but oh, well. However inconvenient it is (if I want that picture in my paper due tomorrow I'll have to rush in to school and scan it in), it's also quite gratifying that no one has done any sort of work yet that could have lead to the photo being put online.

In other news, I think it's possible that Emma Donoghue might be my not-so-evil twin. Well, she and I have some of the same favorite books and movies, and tend to wear the same colors, anyway. Here's where I learned all that.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Derby Results

It's a good thing I didn't have time to figure out online betting yesterday (although I'd probably have bet no more than $5 anyway), but even though none of my picks so much as placed, I liked Street Sense's major come-from-behind win so much that I didn't care.

For the record, my picks were Circular Quay for the win, Any Given Saturday for the place, and Dominican for the show. I didn't have time to really think about them, so I based my choices on a mixture of past performance (I thought it a good omen that Circular Quay had not been over-raced), relatively non-annoying names, and I confess that NBC's spot on the Dominican nuns in Kentucky influenced my choice for 3rd. Sad but true--but I did want to see a handful of elderly nuns celebrating their namesake. (Why are nuns cute to us non-Catholics? And why is it sweet that the oldest-looking of them said that maybe if the horse won, they'd get new converts...uh.... But anyway.)

NBC's coverage was irritatingly people-focused, I found--much more so than it was when I was a teenager, when they'd focus on the horses more than on the owners, trainers, jockeys, etc. The coverage used to tell some of those stories, but with plenty of horse stuff as well, and I found it difficult to decide which horse to back without watching them move, win previous races, etc. Perhaps if I'd had more time to devote to watching ESPN or something....

Another complaint about the televised coverage is that in this day of superior technology, the picture quality--especially the long views of the track--was problematic. Grainy, prone to digital mangling, etc. At times, it looked like the footage quality of Secretariat's wins in 1973! It seems to me we didn't have this problem a decade ago, so I hope they get it worked out soon. I probably won't get to watch the Preakness and Belmont Stakes this year because I'll be in Ireland, but still.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

It's Worth Saying (Again)

...Värttinä are awesome! Luddite I am, I hardly ever pull out the albums after Kokko...right now Seleniko is totally hitting the spot, and maybe it'll even help me start writing my paper due on Monday...where there's life there's hope, and where there are singing Finns there's even more hope.

Folksingers and Breakfast Cereals

Here's an editorial from this morning's New York Times. As "Anonymous" (I know who you are!) writes in the comments to yesterday's post, it's a little strange that the press are making such a big deal of this, since inviting Joan Baez to sing at Walter Reed is a bit like inviting Jane Fonda to speak there. I'm sure Susan Sarandon isn't welcome, either, although I would guess that Bob Dylan might be, since he always denied any overt political message in those songs that have come to be foremost among anti-war songs. Would Pete Seeger be welcome?

But the question underneath all this, or perhaps the implicit commentary, is that if the Army feels threatened by Joan Baez, then the Army feels threatened, period. Would Baez have been allowed to sing back in 2003 before those pesky Weapons of Mass Destruction failed to turn up for the party?

I had to chortle at the writer's Fariña-farina joke. So obvious yet so non sequitur, so not funny that it's a total hoot.

Unwanted Folk

Published: May 3, 2007

Joan Baez sang at Woodstock. If you recognize either name, you probably already knew that. If you don’t, go to Google, then come back and help us puzzle something out.

Why would the Army be afraid of her?

Last Friday, John Mellencamp gave a concert for injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Ms. Baez, a friend who’d been invited by Mr. Mellencamp, did not. She was barred by Army brass, supposedly because of the lateness of the invitation, although Mr. Mellencamp’s camp suggested it was because she was considered objectionable.

Objectionable for what? To whom?

Mr. Mellencamp and Ms. Baez are both politically outspoken. Both have denounced the Iraq war. Yet Mr. Mellencamp’s activism is the kind the Army could more easily overlook. He wears a T-shirt and jeans and sings songs so down-home, so red, white and blue, that you could use them to sell Chevy trucks, which Mr. Mellencamp has actually done. “Let’s forget about any problems we might have and let’s just have a good time,” Mr. Mellencamp told his audience in what The Washington Post reported was a rousing and apolitical show.

Although Ms. Baez is as much of an activist as ever — she camped in a tree last year to stop the bulldozing of an urban farm — she would probably have shown similar tact. In a letter in The Post yesterday, she said she regretted not having given soldiers a better welcome home from Vietnam, and would have loved to sing at Walter Reed.

What is astounding is that somebody apparently could not get past the image of willowy Joan singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” nearly 40 years ago and thought troops so young they wouldn’t know Mimi Fariña from Cream of Wheat couldn’t or wouldn’t abide her presence.

They say generals are always fighting the last war. But Vietnam was two wars ago, three if you count the war on terror.

Joan Baez's Letter to the Washington Post

On the "Letters" page (A14) of the Washington Post, May 2, 2007:

Why I Wanted to Sing at Walter Reed

Regarding the April 28 Style article "At Walter Reed, Mellencamp Shuts
His Mouth and Sings":
Recently, John Mellencamp invited me to be his guest at a concert for
recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I said yes
immediately. Only later did I realize how the passage of time had informed
my decision to join him.

I have always been an advocate for nonviolence, and I have stood as
firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago. During
that war, I could not, in good conscience, have "sung for the troops."
Doing so would have meant condoning a war that was tearing soldiers,
civilians, this country, Vietnam and, in some senses, the world, apart. I
do not regret that decision.

What I do regret is having ignored the needs of the men and women who
returned from Vietnam. For some who were relatively unscathed, it seemed
possible to get on with life, with or without all of their limbs
But it's clear that, for many, returning was hell.

I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home
for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that's why I didn't hesitate
to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and

In the end, four days before the concert, I was not "approved" by the
Army to take part. Strange irony.

Menlo Park, Calif.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Less Than Three Days...

...'til the Kentucky Derby.

Has anyone picked a favorite yet?

(Street Sense beats Any Given Saturday by a nose in the Tampa Bay Derby. Both horses are in Saturday's race.)

No Joan at Walter Reed

News of this just came through the WTJU email list. Here's the Washington Post article:

Joan Baez Unwelcome At Concert For Troops
Singer Was to Perform With Mellencamp at Walter Reed

By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 2, 2007; Page C01

When rocker John Mellencamp performed for the recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday night, a couple of things were missing. He squelched his typically blistering rhetoric against the war in Iraq. Also MIA, as it turned out, was folkie and antiwar activist Joan Baez, who says she was disinvited from the event by Army officials.

In a letter that appears today in The Washington Post, Baez says Mellencamp had wanted her to perform with him and that she had accepted his invitation.

"I have always been an advocate for nonviolence," she writes, "and I have stood as firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago. . . . I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that's why I didn't hesitate to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In the end, four days before the concert, I was not 'approved' by the Army to take part. Strange irony."

Reached by telephone yesterday at her home in Menlo Park, Calif., Baez, 66, said she wasn't told why she was given the boot, but speculated, "There might have been one, there might have been 50 [soldiers] that thought I was a traitor."

Baez, who said Mellencamp had asked her to sing two songs with him, has been an avowed anti-violence activist ever since she refused to participate in an air raid drill at her Southern California high school. In the '60s, her name became synonymous with the antiwar movement, though many of the protest songs she was famous for performing, such as "Blowin' in the Wind," were covers of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger songs. In 1964 she protested the Vietnam War by refusing to pay 60 percent of her income taxes. In 1968, she married activist David Harris -- the two met in jail following a protest -- and moved with him into his draft resistance commune.

Walter Reed officials did not respond to several requests for comment yesterday. But in an e-mailed statement published Monday on RollingStone.com, spokesman Steve Sanderson said the medical center received the requests for participation by Baez and broadcaster Dan Rather just two days before the concert. (Rather now works for HDNet, which broadcast the Mellencamp concert.)

"These additional requirements were not in the agreement/contract and would have required a modification," Sanderson told the magazine's Web site.

Not so, says Baez's manager, Mark Spector; Mellencamp's management invited Baez to perform in March with the understanding that things could take a while "because of the red tape of Army bureaucracy." Mellencamp's management handled all the arrangements, according to Spector. And up until April 23, when Baez was turned down, everything was "still inching forward," he said: "They'd booked her flight; they'd booked her hotel."

Mellencamp's manager, Randy Hoffman, did not return calls requesting comment, and Mellencamp was ill and unavailable yesterday, according to his publicist. But Mellencamp told RollingStone.com: "They didn't give me a reason why she couldn't come. We asked why and they said, 'She can't fit here, period.' "

"One of my more cynical friends said, 'They let the rats in, why not you?' " Baez said, laughing, referring to a recent exposé of living conditions at Walter Reed.

It wasn't the first time that a performer has been blocked from Walter Reed. In 2004, Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke was refused permission to tour the wards. She'd been scheduled to visit troops as part of an Arts Advocacy Day in Washington. USO officials later said they didn't have enough time to let the patients know that a celebrity would be visiting -- although Michael Jackson was spotted in the ward the same night that Duke would have popped in for a visit.

An HDNet spokeswoman said Rather had planned to interview Mellencamp at the hospital, but "schedule-wise we couldn't make it happen."

After the concert, Baez said, Mellencamp left her a message to say, "I hope you're not mad at me." Her response: " 'Of course not. It's an honor to be turned down by the Army.' . . . But I would have been happier getting in . . . I thought times had changed enough."

So what exactly happened?

The answer -- since Walter Reed's officials aren't talking -- is blowin' in the wind. (Sorry, we couldn't resist.)

I'm not too surprised. After all, Baez's anti-war activities are well-known and decades in duration. On the other hand, how many of today's soldiers would have any clue who she is, since she's not nearly as high-profile as she was during the Vietnam War? In any case, this article makes me want to go crank "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around"....

Or this:

$5 Bargain

As some of you know, I just bought a juicer on Amazon. I can't remember whether I posted about it or not, but I had a $25 gift certificate, and so at its full price of $30 I got a factory refurbished Waring JEX328FR Health Juice Extractor (it extracts juices from health???) for a mere $5--almost less than what I'd pay for a serving of fresh juice.

So by all counts, it's a bargain, at least as a hunk of machinery to take up counter space. How well does it work? Significantly better than $5 worth, for sure, and well worth the original price of $30, although (as plenty of reviewers on Amazon affirm) it doesn't get the most juice out of the pulp, and if I don't clean out the pulp collector fairly often it lets quite large bits of stuff pass through unpulverized. The instructions say that it can handle spinach and other leafy things, but not grass, but I haven't tried any of that yet. Cleanup is no more a pain than any other juicer I've used, including the much-worshiped Champion brand.

Caveats aside, the juice I made last night was divine, and although I am sorry to throw away all that carrot/apple/ginger pulp, with a little foresight I can use some of that material for muffins, soup base, etc.--I just have to take the extra trouble to peel anything that needs peeling (like the apples). Today I try something involving celery.

Well worth $30.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Sometimes We Like Fire...

...and sometimes we don't. Thanks to Rob for sending me the news of a fire at DC's Eastern Market yesterday that gutted part of the historic building that was one of my regular weekend destinations, along with Rob, Tina, and others. I haven't been there in several years, but have been meaning to get down there the last few times I've been in DC. Alas.

(Ok, it's a little silly for me, in NYC, to be posting about what's surely common news in DC, when the vast majority of my readership hails from the DC area, but anyway!)

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Book I'm Not Not Reading

(The title reminds me of one of those GSOC union chants: "If we're not workers, then we're not not working," which was one of my favorites--and reminds me also that at least for a limited amount of time, being on the picket line was kind of fun. But I'm not going to get into all that here.)

Anyway--Linguistic Anthropology class is OVER! Woo hoo! Lots of great readings, but way too much work, and so I'm well shut of it. Now--only a few more classes, some reading, and a final project, and I'll be officially done with coursework!

Tomorrow some of us are off to the A2K (Access to Knowledge) conference at Yale--that should be fun. I've probably never sat around with that many lawyers, and I hope to have tales to tell.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Political Outrage: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Workplace safety has long been one of the issues I get really riled up about, perhaps from seeing Silkwood (1983) at an impressionable age--an era when the Three Mile Island (1979) disaster was a recent memory (especially for one whose mother worked for the company that built the reactor!)--not to mention Chernobyl (1986) and the poisonous gas leak in Bhopal, India (1984), that ultimately killed an estimated 20,000 people. And then, of course, are all the songs about coal mining disasters....

The main sticking point this article discusses is much smaller-scale, though no less cataclysmic for the people involved: fatal lung disease caused by exposure to diacetyl, a chemical used to flavor microwave popcorn and other products. I first heard about the problem in the Milwaukee newspaper while at the American Folklore Society conference last October--the article featured several workers who were trying to collect damages and who were calling for regulatory measures.

Here are a few quotations from the article in this morning's Times, "OSHA Leaves Worker Safety in Hands of Industry." Not surprisingly, Bush and his administration are doing yet more to line the pockets of the rich while fucking over the working classes even more.

Since George W. Bush became president, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court.

The agency has killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others. For example, OSHA has repeatedly identified silica dust, which can cause lung cancer, and construction site noise as health hazards that warrant new safeguards for nearly three million workers, but it has yet to require them.

“The people at OSHA have no interest in running a regulatory agency,” said Dr. David Michaels, an occupational health expert at George Washington University who has written extensively about workplace safety. “If they ever knew how to issue regulations, they’ve forgotten. The concern about protecting workers has gone out the window.”

Labor leaders and health experts say those numbers significantly undercount the problem, in part because the Bush administration has reduced the categories of recognized injuries and because many dangerous jobs are now performed by undocumented workers who do not report problems.